Racialised mercy: reprieving black and minority ethnic prisoners in twentieth-century England and Wales

Seal, Lizzie and Neale, Alexa Hannah Leah (2018) Racialised mercy: reprieving black and minority ethnic prisoners in twentieth-century England and Wales. In: British Crime Historians Symposium, 31 August - 1 September 2018, Edge Hill University.

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Abstract

As part of a wider project exploring all cases of black and minority ethnic people sentenced to death in England and Wales in the 20thC, this paper analyses surprising examples of cases in which race was given as a reason to respite a capital sentence and allow a defendant to serve a term of imprisonment instead of being hanged for murder. These cases stand in sharp contrast to the apparent over-representation of black and minority ethnic people amongst those hanged. BME individuals accounted for 5% of executions 1900-65, despite comprising less than 1% of the population. The reasons offered for mercy were situated in the context of contemporary racist discourses, such as infantilisation. For example, a ͚simple African͛ could not be held fully accountable for his lack of ability to control his passions. Drawing on a range of cases, this paper identifies the actors and reasons behind such discourses, analysing the apparent utility of such reasons. It examines the racialised justifications for reprieve advanced by the Defence, jury, judge, petitioners, press, and Home Office and pays attention to where these overlapped and where they differed.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Research Centres and Groups: Crime Research Centre
Sussex Rights and Justice Research Centre
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV6001 Criminology
Depositing User: Alexa Hannah Leah Neale
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2018 11:23
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2018 11:23
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/78672
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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Race, Racialisation and the Death Penalty in England and Wales, 1900-65G2062LEVERHULME TRUSTRPG-2016-352